A team of invasive species researchers has discovered the largest python ever found in Florida’s swampland — and her 73 eggs.
The Big Cypress National Preserve posted the official announcement to Facebook on April 5, alongside a picture of the 140-pound mama serpent. The researchers credited their discovery to “research and a new approach to finding pythons.”
The method is as simple as it is innovative. “Using male pythons with radio transmitters allows the team to track the male to locate breeding females,” the post reads. “The team not only removes the invasive snakes, but collects data for research, develop new removal tools, and learn how the pythons are using the Preserve.”
The python was caught and killed. One response to the post complained that the “incredible creature” was killed “just because it’s a snake.” That is not, however, the case. Preserve officials replied to the comment with a correction:
Invasive pythons are not being killed because they are snakes. They are being humanely euthanized because they are having a huge, negative impact on native animals such as deer, wading birds, and even Florida panthers by taking away food from the endangered native Panther. Rescues are already over-crowded with unwanted pet snakes. It is not fun in any way to euthanize these creatures, but it is done to protect the many native species that do live in Big Cypress National Preserve.
Burmese pythons rule the Florida Everglades, lacking any predators capable of culling their numbers. Humans are wholly to blame for the incursion; pet owners have spent years releasing them into the area. Studies have shown that pythons have reduced native populations of their favored prey by about 90 percent.
So far, Big Cypress National Preserve has reportedly removed more than 1,000 of the reptilian invaders in hopes of stemming the tide. This particular snake was a notable victory, but whether the Preserve can control the population before the ecosystem is completely destroyed remains to be seen.